2022 Week 4: Healthcare
Fatima Baloul | Shepherd’s Clinic
I recall the “ fears activity ” we partook in during orientation; we each wrote our fears, prior to beginning our new internships, on sticky notes. Throughout the past week, I was reminded of the fears that I quickly, yet intentionally jotted down 4 week prior, on my sticky note. They were a mixture of fears rooted from my people – pleasing tendencies and, in turn, fears derived from my lack of trust in my ability and skills as an intern. And as I reflected, last week, on what I had been afraid of prior to being an intern at Shepherd’s Clinic, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and reassurance. Reassurance due to the fact that my fears did not transform into fruition. I would consider myself as a chronic people – pleaser, as too accommodating, and far too afraid of rejection from others, specifically in a professional environment. Yet, those tendencies and habits have not majorly impacted or hindered my work as an intern at Shepherd’s Clinic; the team that I am surrounded with have been consistently advocating for me and have truly taught me the art of learning to set boundaries. Gratitude as a result of being in a nurturing environment at Shepherd’s Clinic; an environment that is gentle if mistakes are made and comfortable to learn in. I have been assigned to projects that amplify and illuminate the skills that I believe I have practiced and developed expertise at, and I have been designated roles that I needed to put forth an ample amount of effort to do well in. As we have approached the midpoint of CIIP, I am learning myself, personally and professionally, and I am gradually overcoming the fears that I had at the beginning of the program.
My original goals for the summer have not changed very much as the weeks at the Esperanza Center have progressed. I don’t know if my Spanish has improved very much in the last four weeks, but I’ve noticed big improvements in my confidence speaking Spanish. Because of all the experience I’ve gotten speaking Spanish, as well as support and encouragement from the people I’m working with, I am much less anxious or nervous to mess up when I am speaking Spanish. I’ve found that this has caused me to stutter a lot less around my words and also focus more when people are speaking to me, meaning my conversations overall go much more smoothly than they were four weeks ago. I have been very excited and pleased by this progress and how much more comfortable I am after stepping out of my comfort zone for the last few weeks.
Finishing up my fourth week at the Esperanza Center also came with the jarring realization that I’m halfway through the time I’ll spend at this internship this summer. Throughout this past week, I’ve reflected in several moments how grateful I feel to have been placed at the Esperanza Center, and even more grateful that I didn’t let my initial fears and anxieties prevent me from accepting the placement. The weeks leading up to beginning CIIP orientation, and even during orientation, I had this fear that I would show up at the Esperanza Center and just be completely incapable of being able to do any of the work assigned to me, or just be an effective or helpful intern at all. Reflecting on my initial goals and how far I’ve come since beginning my internship has made me realize even more how lucky I feel to be at the Esperanza Center this summer, because in many ways, I think it was a perfect placement for me and I’m sure going to come away from this experience much more professionally developed and with a clearer idea of the kind of work I want to do within my own career.
This weeks felt the most formative for me. The transition from program planning to execution really opened my eyes. Finally starting the Young Mothers Program at MOMCares and seeing the impact of just one week has been pivotal. I feel I’ve learned so much from the mothers and it has only begun. My initial fears were that it would be difficult for everyone to foster a sense of community. Despite a large age range, some young/expecting mothers as young as 15, everyone seemed to leverage their experiences to create dialogue and a sense of belonging. As much as I love it, I hate to admit that because of the closeness I felt to the cohort, I cried often this week. Separating my work from my emotions has been unfortunately hard for me. It’s not lost on me that there’s only so many areas of concern that can be addressed, but it frustrates me are so obviously systemic. My first set of tears were shed after seeing one of the mothers needing help to leave the program. We happen to be the same age so we got along well, just talking about different aspects of our lives after the program ended for the day. It happened to be the first day she brought all her kids and because there was a mix of infants and toddlers, it was understandably difficult. We happened to be going in the same direction / bus for part of the journey so I offered to help. What ended up happening was 2 bus rides with inconsistent schedules, closed roads from construction all with 4 children in tow. Something that would’ve taken 15-20 minutes driving became a 1.5 hr journey. Even though I hate to admit it, I cried because I felt helpless. I wasn’t frustrated at getting home so much later, I was frustrated because I could tell how much this mother appreciated my help, but I knew it wasn’t feasible for me to go all the way over East. I wish I had a happier end to this reflection, but I’m currently in a state of “I’m not even sure.”
Coming into CIIP this year, my primary goals were to obtain a better understanding of behavioral health services and how organizations such as my placement can address behavioral health and the social determinants of health to supplement primary care, learn the nuances of providing healthcare to vulnerable populations such as those experiencing homelessness, and obtain a better understanding of what resources are available for those experiencing homelessness in Baltimore.
Because I am not working in a capacity where I can directly interact with clients of HCH, I have not been able to learn the things I wish to learn on a person to person basis. However, being a part of the larger “administration” system and having deep and honest conversations with my supervisor has given me more insight into what it takes to provide healthcare in a way that truly honors and uplifts the experiences of the client. A major factor that attributes to this is being cognizant of the systems that HCH has been built on and is a part of. Like I mentioned in my post last week, a huge chunk of the social service sector in Baltimore contributes to a system that perpetuates white supremacy, and looking at the demographics of HCH it may seem like we are also falling into that boat. Yes, the demographics of the staff are not representative of the clients that seek care, but one differentiating factor is that HCH leadership and all of the staff I have met make a very conscious effort to recognize the systemic issues at hand and work in partnership to challenge these systems. Completely overturning the historically racist infrastructure society and social service organizations are built on today is impossible to do when we still have to live and work in this system, but the REI work HCH partakes in and the push for more advocacy for more equitable systems is something that is at least a step in the right direction.
My transition to starting to work with HCH was a bit slower than I anticipated so I feel that in the last half of our internship, there are a lot of things that I can still do to achieve my goals. As of now, I have meetings scheduled with staff to work on a new training on suicide, a grant specialist to learn more about how large nonprofits like HCH are funded, and a meeting with one of the primary care providers at the clinic to learn more about the clinical facing work that HCH immerses itself in. I am also hopeful to assist my supervisor with other projects such as updating the resource directory for clients at HCH and potentially helping out with one of their upcoming public health campaigns.
I think my goals for the summer has definitely changed and firmed up a lot since the beginning of the summer. I tried to go into my time at my placement with a really open mind and had really broad goals. I wanted to help people, feel like I was contributing meaningfully, and learn something. Now that we’re halfway through the summer, I feel a lot more assured of my place and where I can contribute at work. I’ve been given some projects to work on, too, and now have more clarified goals centered on these particular contributions.
By the time the summer is over, I have a few powerpoints to complete, which I try to chip away at a little bit every morning before the day picks up. Additionally, I’ve just barely begun working with a new team, HUBS, that helps renovate and upgrade houses so older adults can age in place. I really like the mission and the team, and though I think I’ll mostly be doing administrative work, I’m feeling really motivated to contribute and really hope I can help them out a lot while I’m still here.
Additionally, I’ve begun to build relationships with a few residents that I see frequently. It’s been a real joy to get to know them and hear their stories, as well as bring a smile to their face just by sitting and chatting with them for a few minutes. This is one of the best parts of my day most days, and while there’s no measurable goal I have associated, I just look forward to seeing them more and growing our relationship.
One other goal I have is to get the water bottle filling station on the second floor to reach 1000! It’s at about 930 right now, so there’s a long way to go before I get there, but hopefully I have help from other people in the building. This goal is fun for me and reminds me to drink my water every day!